Hume launches personal attacks against Bolton critics without addressing their claims

Over the past week, Fox News Washington managing editor Brit Hume has repeatedly used the “Grapevine” segment of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume to assail critics of John R. Bolton based on their personal lives and past affiliations, largely ignoring the substance of their criticisms of Bolton, President Bush's nominee for U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

On April 20, Hume referred to Melody Townsel as a “liberal Democrat” and “the founder of the Dallas chapter of Mothers Opposing Bush." As he spoke, the on-screen graphic read: “Accuser's M.O.B. Ties.” Townsel claims that Bolton, then a private attorney, “once threw a file folder and a tape dispenser” at her, “disparaged her weight and alleged she was gay in an attempt to get her to withdraw criticism of a foreign-aid project,” according to an April 21 USA Today article. The Los Angeles Times reported on April 18 that Townsel testified that Bolton “had shouted at her, threw papers at her, chased her down a hotel hallway in Moscow and pounded on her room door.” Hume suggested that Townsel's allegations against Bolton might be motivated by her political views, failing to note that according to USA Today, Townsel told her employer about the incident with Bolton when it occurred in 1994.

On April 25, Hume noted that Lynne Finney, former U.N. policy adviser for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), “remembers being verbally abused by U.N. ambassador nominee John Bolton more than 20 years ago.” Hume quickly added: “But it turns out this isn't the first time Lynne Finney remembers mistreatment from long ago.” Hume then quoted statements from Finney's personal website about how she had recovered suppressed memories “of having been abused by her father.” Finney claims that “in late 1982 or early 1983, when Bolton, as the top lawyer at USAID, outranked Finney,” Bolton attempted to fire her for her refusal “to lobby for a weakening of restrictions on the sale of infant formula in the developing world” [USA Today 4/24/05]. Finney also claimed that “when fellow attorneys said the firing was illegal, she stayed and Bolton 'retaliated' by moving her to 'a shabby windowless office in the basement in order to force me to leave” [CNN 4/25/05]. Finney's superior at the time, who in 2002 was appointed by the White House to be chairman of the board for International Food and Agricultural Development, claims to have “no recollection of the events Finney described” [CNN 4/25/05] -- a fact that does address the substance of her allegations but one that Hume did not mention, choosing instead to trumpet Finney's unrelated allegations of abuse by her father.

On April 26, Hume claimed that former U.S. ambassador to Morocco and Burma Frederick Vreeland “turns out to be quite a bit more than that,” calling Vreeland “a noted Bush critic” because of his involvement with the group Diplomats and Military Commanders for Change. The group's website claims it is “an unprecedented bipartisan coalition of 27 career chiefs of mission and retired four-star military leaders who have launched a nationwide campaign to press for the need for change in U.S. foreign and defense policy because they are deeply concerned by the damage the Bush Administration has caused to our national and international interests.” Vreeland, who was appointed by President George H.W. Bush, said that Bolton “dealt with visitors to his office as if they were servants with whom he could be dismissive, curt and negative. He was well known for never being good-tempered or even well mannered” [Los Angeles Times, 4/26/05].

Additionally, on April 25, Hume interviewed Lawrence S. Eagleburger, former secretary of state under President Reagan who authored a Washington Post op-ed in favor of Bolton's confirmation the day before. Eagleburger commented to Hume that he “never saw anything that indicated that John [Bolton] was abrasive to his subordinates,” characterizing Bolton as “tough” and someone who “says what he thinks.” Eagleburger added: “It's one of the reasons I admire him.” Special Report has hosted no guests critical of Bolton.